Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 16
The need for a R&R policy arose following protests in Singur in West Bengal where land had been allotted to the Tatas for its small car project. The agitation with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee in the vanguard brought to fore the fact that the acquisition of prime agricultural land had displaced farmers without proper compensation and they had also not been provided alternative vocation.
Problems had also arisen with the acquisition of land for the Special Economic Zones by big industrial houses amid allegations that prime agricultural land had been purchased at throwaway prices rather than at the prevailing market value. Since this controversy arose the Centre has made it clear that prime agricultural land will not be acquired for SEZs or large industrial projects.
Immediately thereafter, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made it clear that the government will come forward with a humane, all encompassing policy pertaining to the Resettlement and Rehabilitation of those whose land had been acquired. More importantly, Dr Singh had stressed that the proposed policy would protect the interests and rights of displaced persons.
Nandigram was also a case inpoint. The Manmohan Singh government firmly believes that big industrial projects had become a necessity for maintaining the growth rate. At the same time the causes of discontent must be addressed so that it did not lead to violence.
The Rural Development Minister made it clear that even though the new provisions will not be applicable to projects like Singur, all new industrial project must meet the stringent conditions contained in the proposed R & R policy.
On approval, the Cabinet decision will be notified giving it “statutory status and will become a law immediately. Thereafter, the law will be brought to Parliament,” Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh observed.
He said the proposed new R & R policy will seek rehabilitation even before the people are displaced.
Other salient aspects of the proposed policy pertain to Landless families in the affected zone being eligible for land; projects shall provide employment to displaced people provided there are vacancies and the displaced are skilled enough; displaced persons will be given preference for employment during construction of the project; the old and the infirm will be given a pension of Rs 500 per month; each affected family will be given a plot free of cost and financial assistance to build a house; and people reduced to the status of marginal farmers will also get land.
Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh stressed “the crux of the proposed R & R policy is that every person affected by big projects should get a share of the project.”
Simultaneously, a social impact study becomes mandatory for project clearance.